The Arty Semite

Small Nations Stick Together at the Israeli Jazz Festival

By Micah Kelber

  • Print
  • Share Share
Avishai Cohen

So, what was a non-Jewish, non-Israeli Cuban doing organizing the NYC Israeli Jazz Festival, anyway?

“Someone had to do it,” said Roberto Rodriguez who composes, leads and plays drums for the Cuban Jewish All-Stars. After 20 shows and over 1000 people passing through the doors at John Zorn’s non-profit jazz space The Stone last week, Rodriguez expressed quite a bit of — well, nachas — at what he and the musicians were able to create from May 20 to 30.

“I wanted to show how deep and influential Israelis have become in the New York Jazz scene,” he said. “They come from a small country, like Cuba, and they play in such different styles. I couldn’t get that kind of diversity from any other country.”

With performances that ranged from the emerging Oz Noy to the polished Avishai and Anat Cohen brother sister combo, the audiences of the festival were treated to the exploration and virtuosity that Israeli musicians are bringing out of Israel and to the streets of New York.

“There isn’t really a market for Jazz in Israel,” said Ziv Ravitz, who has been on the New York jazz scene for 10 years and played drums on Saturday night in a quartet led by Alon Nechustan.

“Israelis want music that is easier to digest. In times of problems you find yourself gravitating towards music that puts you more at ease, to find comfort. This music is challenging more, asks of you a little more, and so in these situations you have to have your own space for it. Whenever I go home, the last thing that my family wants to hear is another jazz album, no — there’s too many notes.”

Ravitz’s playing particularly stood out. Anyone who has attended a jazz show knows that drum solos can often test one’s patience — like an undergraduate literary theorist insisting that you listen to his understanding of Deleuze. Get to the point! But Ravitz impressed, seeming to find new depths in the drum heads, swaying at his kit unballasted, stabilized by his bouncing brown Chuck Taylored feet. The audience was in thrall every time the band stood back.

“There is a certain kind of old soul in Israeli jazz musicians,” said Rodriguez. “It’s kind of a maturity and I find that there is a lot of originality coming over.”

New York drummer Jeff Davis suggested: “A lot of Israelis are classically trained, but they want to play jazz. You can see that influence in the way that a lot of Israeli drummers set up. Their drums are flat, parallel to the ground, like classical drums.”

Rodriguez, sounding like Jackie Mason, suggested other benefits to exploring music with his brothers in exile:

“The other night I played there were three Cubans and five Israelis in my band. And I booked a wedding!”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Avishai Cohen, Anat Cohen, Alon Nechustan, Cuban Jewish All-Stars, Gilles Deleuze, Israeli Jazz Festival, Israeli Music, Jackie Mason, Jazz, Jeff Davis, John Zorn, Music, Roberto Rodriguez, The Stone, Ziv Ravitz

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.